Watson’s Weekly 16-01-2021

This is an amalgamation of the “best bits” of the daily weekday newsletter/blog woven together to form a concise and coherent view on the things that matter in the commercial and economic news of the week. 

THE DAY IN BRACKETS REFERS TO THE EDITION WHERE THE STORY APPEARED IN WATSON’S DAILY. Clicking on the day will take you to the appropriate edition of Watson’s Daily.


  • The Capitol fallout continues as Trump is impeached (Thursday) while party sponsors continue to abandon – even New York City cuts him off (Thursday)! The next stage is that the Senate will have to vote to convict him (it will need a two-thirds majority to do so), but that’s unlikely to happen before Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday 20th. I think that if the inauguration passes off without Trump supporters doing anything stupid, Trump will probably be OK (the Senate is thought to be 50-50 at the moment), but if it all goes wrong there is much more likelihood of him getting convicted – and if that happens, he probably won’t be able to run for office in 2024. In the meantime, Biden wants to get a $1.9tn coronavirus bailout/stimulus package out there (Friday) that should see him through the first year of office.
  • Big Tech continues to cut Trump off (Twitter and Facebook effectively “de-platform” him) but it also pretty much kills his supporters’ communication platform of choice as Amazon, Apple and Google all but kill off Parler (Tuesday). The sheer power that Big Tech wields in terms of whether someone gets to have a voice or not is plain for all to see and will no doubt push the whole free speech/anticompetitive behaviour thing up the Biden agenda in terms of urgency
  • Bitcoin took a lot of flak this week – but gave it back in style despite getting slagged off by the FCA (Tuesday), the ECB (Thursday) and being put under scrutiny by the US Treasury Department (Tuesday). Investors ignored it anyway as Bitcoin broke through $40,000 again (Friday)


  • Ford closed down factories in Brazil (Tuesday) as part of the ongoing pruning process of its loss-making international operations while Honda decided to close down its Swindon plant (Thursday) due to a lack of semiconductors. Modern cars require more of these chips – something that could be very good news for chipmaker TSMC (Friday) this year as demand is high but supply is limited
  • In electric vehicles, Tesla is riding high in China (Thursday) with a 20% market share of EV sales, but you’d think it has to be careful not to do too well otherwise it might attract unwanted attention from the Chinese authorities! There could be a potential banana skin, though, as the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked it to recall 158,000 vehicles due to a fault in the all-important touchscreen (Thursday). This would be a big deal for Tesla given that it delivered almost 500,000 vehicles GLOBALLY last year, of which about 205,600 of those stayed in the US. Apparently, Tesla does not have to recall the vehicles but it does have to come up with a reason why. Interestingly, the UK’s safety regulator, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, has looked at the same issue but not recommended the recall. However, news of what’s going on in the US is causing concern and some charities, such as Brake, are urging a review…
  • German carmakers BMW, Daimler and VW tripled sales of EVs last year (Wednesday), outpacing Tesla for the first time. However, when you are doling out up to €9,000 in subsidies per vehicle (a measure introduced last year to boost car sales) this is hardly surprising! The real test of how popular EVs are is what sales are like when there are no incentives!
  • GM announced a new electric truck business (Wednesday) called BrightDrop which will specialise in delivery vehicles – something that I think is a good idea given that it is a growing area and one that requires fleets of vehicles, which will be good for sales.


  • EU vaccine distribution is coming in for a lot of criticism (Wednesday) and although I think there is a lot of niggling going on now, I think things could escalate quickly and get nasty.  Criticisms are that much more acute given that the UK and US is already rolling out the vaccines. If the EU doesn’t get a handle on this quickly, there’s a risk that individual countries could splinter, get their own supplies and really drive a rift between the richer northern European countries (because they can just go and buy more vaccines) and the poorer southern ones (who can’t). Talking of vaccine distribution, Russia is having problems getting to the regions (Friday), but there’s also the other problem of scepticism of its citizens as to whether its vaccine, Sputnik V, really works and we also heard that the Chinese vaccine is has a lower efficacy rate than had been previously thought (Wednesday), which is a real shame as, TBH, I just hope that ALL vaccines work wherever they are from!
  • There were two “feelgood” stories I wanted to tell you about as well this week – the one about the Sussex company that has found a way to make vaccines in pill form (Thursday) – HOW FANTASTIC IS THAT??? – and then the (probably more realistic) one about Johnson & Johnson nearing the final tests for its one-shot vaccine (Friday), which would obviously be WAAAAAAY easier to distribute (although I’m not sure what temperature it has to be kept at) because you don’t have to worry about the logistics of getting people back in for a second shot
  • There were some other issues that came up that are worth considering for the future that came up this week, though. The CEO of Pimlico Plumbers said that he would be bringing in a “no jab, no job” policy (Thursday) meaning that new starters will have to have the jab as a condition of work – something that I think could become common practice as time goes on. Also, health and tech groups are working on a vaccination passport (Friday), which is another thing that needs to be brought in quickly because individuals are surely going to be asked to prove that they’ve been vaccinated in order to do all sorts of things like go to the office, step onto a plane, go into crowded venues etc.


  • Watson’s Yearly updates: These will be left until the next edition of Watson’s Yearly that will be published shortly